Rethinking the ‘Entrepreneurial Discovery Process’ in times of physical distancing

Publication article | | LARANJA Manuel; MARQUES SANTOS Anabela; EDWARDS John; FORAY Dominique


The “Entrepreneurial Discovery Process” is a key element of Smart Specialisation Strategy, referring to stakeholder involvement in policy design to ‘discover’ and identify new or existing priorities for innovation investment, based on region strengths and market trends. However, studies have revealed that this principle has been one of the most demanding for regions (or countries) to implement, and such interaction between stakeholders has been even more challenging in times of physical distancing, as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The present report aims to present the lessons learned through the pilot actions conducted with the Alentejo and Algarve regions of Portugal for prototyping online events to support the “Entrepreneurial Discovery Process”.

The pilots provide the opportunity to design and test whether online workshops could be used to support EDP more widely, and what adaptations would be needed for a new online context. For both events the objective was to stimulate regional actors to participate in an initial exploration of relevant thematic areas, in order to define them as possible priority domains for the next Smart Specialisation cycle. Participating actors in both regions were invited to participate, share experiences, identify obstacles, and suggest solutions to strengthen the innovative capacity of the region in these thematic areas. Hence the events were prepared to bring together a range of actors in the territory, from business, research, and the public administration to discuss issues relevant to their regional strategies. This report sets out the lessons learned from this experience with organising and participating on online events to support EDP can be divided in before-the-event, during-the-event and after-the-event. Furthermore, an ex post online survey to participants also revealed an overall high satisfaction from the participants and that the EDP online events were welcomed by the large majority of participants.

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